For some time now, the ruler of China has been talking about destroying the United States and the liberal world order that Washington helped create in the wake of World War II. Uncovered documents and never-before-translated speeches shine light on what Xi Jinping has in mind. His words are disquieting.
Five years ago this fall, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held its 19th National Congress in Beijing. To mark the occasion, Xi gave an iron man speech in the Great Hall of the People, standing in the limelight and reading his prepared remarks out loud for over three hours. Buried amid jargon-heavy prose was a remarkable line: “Ever since the Chinese Communist Party was first established, realizing communism has been the party’s supreme ideal and ultimate objective.”
That following spring, Xi gave another major speech in the Great Hall of the People. “Even though world socialism has had twists and turns in its path as it developed, the overall trend of human social development has not changed,” Xi declared. “We must deeply understand that realizing communism is an objective that happens in a historical process. It occurs in stages, one step at a time…We must struggle for communism our entire lives.”
The date was Friday, May 4, 2018, and China was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. The Chinese government launched an intense propaganda campaign and commissioned a towering, two-ton bronze statue of the philosopher, which was erected to the delight of hundreds of flag-waving Communist Party members in his home town of Trier, Germany.
Karl Marx was the co-author of “The Communist Manifesto,” a document that opposed the institutions of family, religion, democracy, free markets, and even nation – a document that urged followers to violently overturn their governments and establish a new system where all power was centralized in the hands of the state via “despotic means.”
Marx’s manifesto was published in 1848 as the platform for a secret society in England, the Communist League. It was translated and disseminated, ultimately catalyzing revolutionary movements that established a raft of one-party dictatorships. Beginning with the Soviet Union in 1917, Communism took root in nations such as Afghanistan, Congo, Cuba, North Korea and, of course, China.
Xi has repeatedly called Marx “the greatest thinker in human history.”
Narrative vs. Reality
Over the past decade, Xi has built a cult of personality around himself founded on the idea that his interpretation of Marxism is pure, better even than that of Lenin and Mao. China is officially an atheist state, but given the vital importance of ideology to the CCP, this is akin to a religious leader telling his followers that God is speaking the truth to him – and him alone.
If Xi’s words seem antiquated and faintly ridiculous to you, that’s because Beijing’s Propaganda Department wants it that way. Since the late 1970s, China’s government has gone to great lengths to encourage a foreign perception that Marxism and Leninism were all but dead and China would gradually assimilate into the post-war international order and become a “responsible stakeholder.” According to this narrative, the story of post-Mao China was one of economic and social reforms, a gradual opening process whose endpoint would involve reforms that, one day, would make China a free-market, capitalist country.
Of course, Xi Jinping and other officials have been saying something very different in Chinese, something that many Communist Party faithful believed all along: China is not going to be absorbed. Rather, it is going to do the absorbing. The CCP’s mission is to gain access to the international system without being changed by it, to gain enough leverage to subvert it, and then to remake that system in the model of its own totalitarian form of government. To this end, Chinese rulers since Deng Xiaoping have been conducting a campaign of global infiltration.
Xi calls the CCP’s long-term game plan “constructing a community of common destiny for all mankind.” Textbooks on Xi Jinping Thought describe the process as follows: “The community of common destiny for all mankind will mold the interests of the Chinese people and those of the world’s people together so they are one and the same.” In other words, Beijing envisions replicating on a global level what it sees as its own superior system.
Party members reading official CCP works are told that they are part of a grand project to help China save humanity from itself. They are assured that they are playing a role in the most epic story of all time: the battle to create a perfect society and paradise on Earth. A dogmatic training manual issued to PLA officers on Xi Jinping Thought, “Great Power Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics,” emphasizes that China’s authoritarian system is superior and Western democracy must be supplanted. “Xi Jinping points out that transforming the global governance system is impossible without guiding the way people think,” the document says. “The community of common destiny for all mankind is an innovative way forward for global governance, which surpasses the West’s thinking and international organizations.”
China’s End of History
In 2020, the Central Party School published a new textbook, “The Fundamentals of Xi Jinping Thought on Chinese Socialism in a New Era,” which was not translated into English but was particularly candid in the original Mandarin.
In many ways, the Central Party School is the high church of Communist China. The CCP oversees a vast network of nearly 3,000 training centers spread across China, schools where students are indoctrinated and prepared for leadership positions in local government, society, and business. The Central Party School is the most exclusive. It is a finishing school where the super-elite are groomed for the most important power plays. Located near the Summer Palace in Beijing, the Central Party School campus is where the CCP molds the minds of future national leaders. As an indication of the institution’s importance, both Mao Zedong and Hu Jintao served as the school’s president before ascending to their positions as paramount leader. Xi Jinping followed the same path. In 2007, he became the school’s president, holding that position until 2012, when he became general secretary of the CCP and chairman of the PRC government.
The new Central Party School textbook asserts that the global economy and global markets must be controlled by the state. In true Marxist fashion, the text reveals that achieving China’s mission will mean the destruction of free market capitalism. Beijing will spread its predatory socialist economic model and “the market and the state will be organically unified.” Also erased will be individual dignity, basic human rights, and ideas like popular sovereignty. The book argues against the existence of universal values, and it asserts that all cultures and ethnicities should be “fused together” and assimilated into a homogenized Chinese-led collective.
The textbook on Xi Jinping Thought states in no uncertain terms that “revolution is an ideal higher than the sky.” And it bluntly says that the CCP aims to export its system to every country in the world. “The fundamental mission and aspiration of a Marxist political party is achieving Communism. Achieving this sacred mission and aspiration will be the grandest and most magnificent enterprise in the history of human society. It will also be the most difficult and complex mission ever.”
China’s foreign policy and all its strategic actions abroad − everything the CCP seeks to do and have in the world – is reportedly guided by this vision. And the clock is ticking. The CCP intends to have accomplished its seemingly impossible mission by 2049, the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Emphasizing the importance of this objective, the PLA training manual goes on to claim: “To achieve the China Dream, we must also establish the community of common destiny for all mankind at the same time.”
This is an aim with monumental implications for the United States and other democracies. If the CCP were to succeed, America would no longer exist as a free and sovereign nation by the midpoint of the 21st century, and the world would be run by an integrated network of one-party dictatorships. China would rule the world and democracy would be obliterated.
Xi Jinping’s works remind us that there are powerful leaders who have a deep hatred of the American way of life and harbor an immovable conviction that their system is fundamentally superior. U.S. policymakers have evinced a marked tendency to blind themselves to such viewpoints and their dark implications. To do their job well, our civilian and military leaders must approach the drivers of CCP behavior with the utmost professional respect, and reject the impulse to dismiss the Chinese government’s ideology as simply irrelevant. Ensuring the security and prosperity of the liberal order will demand that Washington takes Beijing’s worldview into account, and acts accordingly to craft a more rational and principled American foreign policy.
Welcome to Cold War II. As Xi himself said in an internal speech to the PLA, “When it comes to combat in the ideology domain, we don’t have any room for compromise or retreat. We must achieve total victory.”